By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers have urged the Senate to flex its muscles to pass a bill seeking to prohibit and penalize the discrimination against women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBTs).
Leyte Rep. Henry Ong and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine (Nene) Ramirez-Sato, authors of the proposed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) Equality Act challenged their Senate counterparts to approve the long-overdue measure.
“I see here an historic opportunity for the LGBT community to gather momentum. After the SOGIE Bill hurdles the House, the Senate is the next battleground, and after that, the bill goes to Malacanang,” Ong said.
“If the LGBT advocates have a good strategy, now may be the time for them to make that work,” he said.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed on third and final reading House Bill 4982 or the proposed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) Equality Act on September 20, 2017. The Senate’s proposed Anti-Discrimination Act is still in period of interpellation.
Sato, co-sponsor of HB 4982, said Congress should start eliminating discrimination, biases, and existing barriers to a fair, equal and equitable policy environment.
“With the proposed measure, the Philippines puts forward its status as a leader in the global trend promoting gender equality, including LGBT,” she said.
Under HB 4982 , the government is mandated to exert efforts to address all forms of discrimination, marginalization, and violence on the basis of being women, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and promote human dignity.
A person who commits any discriminatory practice upon conviction shall be penalized by a fine of not less than P100,000 but up to a maximum of P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year up to a maximum of not more than 6 years.
“Once enacted, it will highlight the country’s respect for the rights of every Filipino, regardless of age, sex, religion and now, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” Sato said.
She also noted that under the bill, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is tasked to integrate LGBT in its special desk for women and children and probe discrimination against the LGBT sector for acts that violate theirs on the basis of sex, orientation gender identity or expression.
It includes SOGIE Concerns in all Police Stations Activities and Services, and hence, renames the Women and Children’s Desk to Children, Women and Gender Rights Protection Desk, she said.
Ong also called on his colleagues to pass four other bills concerning the LGBT community.
These include the bills establishing LGBT help and protection desks in all PNP stations nationwide, establishing an alternative education facility for LGBTs, defining domestic violence against members of the LGBT community, and prohibiting discrimination of teachers who are unwed mothers, single parents and members of the LGBT community.
“We in Congress firmly believe LGBT rights are human rights,” he said.